English Literature



For a year, beginning in November 1386, twelve lords of a “great and continual council” ruled England instead of King Richard II. Appointed by parliament and replacing the ineffectual chancellor Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, the council’s principal task was to reform the expenses and revenues of the king’s household. The king attempted a recovery of his power in August 1387, which culminated in a ruling by King’s Bench that the council members had been “derogatory to the regality and prerogative of the lord king” and that those who had limited his ability to appoint the ministers and to summon and dismiss parliament as he wished were traitors (see the image “Court of King’s Bench,” p. 145). However, Richard’s friends and supporters subsequently failed in their attempt fully to regain control by force. In the Merciless Parliament of February to June, 1388, five Lords Appellant presented charges of treason against these members of the king’s court, who were then exiled, hanged, or beheaded. Richard was unable fully to revenge these humiliations until 1397, when he had regained sufficient power to recall the King’s Bench’s ruling. Of the five appellants, Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, was murdered; Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel and Surrey, was tried and executed; and Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, was banished.

A little later, in September 1398, Thomas Mowbray, earl of Nottingham and duke of Norfolk, and Henry Bolingbroke, earl of Derby, were also exiled. With the death of John of Gaunt in February 1399, Richard moved to deny Henry his inheritance. Henry responded in July by returning from France while Richard was in Ireland, and Henry quickly gained control of central and eastern England. After some delay, the king landed in south Wales and eventually met with Henry’s representatives at Conway around August 15 after the royal forces had all but dispersed. After agreeing to surrender his person and to summon a parliament to settle matters, Richard met with Henry at Flint and was taken into custody in the city of Chester before being transferred to the Tower of London at the beginning of September. Henry either had been planning all along to claim the throne or at some moment in the August–September period he decided on the more ambitious goal, and he appointed a commission to marshal arguments and evidence as to how this could be done, setting September 30 as the date for parliament’s session. Several meetings between Richard and Henry’s delegates, and then Henry himself, on September 28 and 29 secured Richard’s agreement to a list of articles against him. These charges were read out in parliament on September 30 to cries of approval, Henry securing at the same time confirmation that the lords assented to his new kingship. The king was crowned two weeks later, and in mid-February the 33-year-old former king, now Richard of Bordeaux, died in captivity in the Lancastrian stronghold of Pontrefact. The records of the negotiations between Richard and Henry, from the conferences at Conway to the meetings in the Tower, disagree on several points, depending on the authors’ allegiances and the reasons why the documents were written. The version of the “Record and Process” in the parliamentary rolls is the official Lancastrian account and a deft piece of propaganda written some time after September 30. The Lancastrians were eager to promulgate the “Record and Process,” not only by having a redaction entered in the rolls, but also by circulating it among select abbeys so that the narrative and charges would be entered in chronicles.

“La Manere de la Renonciacione” differs from the “Record and Process” in that it includes descriptions of what happened on September 28, whereas the “Record and Process” begins its narrative on the 29th. Several points in “La Manere” suggest a less clearly propagandist intent, and it may have been written by someone who was merely a witness to the events of the 28–30 September. It survives in one manuscript, possibly written at an East Kentish religious house, perhaps Canterbury, but quickly came into the hands of at least one other chronicler. Adam of Usk (ca. 1352–1430) studied and taught law at Oxford before entering into service for Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury (1396– 7, 1399–1414). He accompanied Arundel and Bolingbroke to Chester in 1399 and, upon returning to London with them and Richard, became part of the committee concerned with finding the evidence and arguments to provide a rationale for deposing and replacing the king. Nevertheless, his eyewitness account of the days leading up to the usurpation are written in a characteristically personal style with a relatively ambiguous tone. Usk’s account is contained in his continuation of Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon (see “The English and England,” p. 50), which he began to write in 1401 and which chronicles the years 1377–1421.Thomas Walsingham (d. ca. 1422), monk of St. Albans abbey in Hertfordshire, was most likely also responsible for a continuation of Higden’s diverse history, and he chronicled the intervening years from Higden’s endpoint in 1340 to 1377. However, his most important work was his continuation of Matthew Paris’s Chronica Majora, which he began about 1380. Walsingham compiled his own Chronica Majora from a number of different authors to cover the years 1308–92, then continued his theocentric history to 1420 while cloistered from 1396 until his death by using official documents, letters, and oral accounts (see also the image “Royal Benefactors,” p. 154). Often critical of Richard II and John of Gaunt, his account of the usurpation relies on the “Record and Process” but provides slightly different information.

The Record and Process of the renunciation of King Richard the Second since the Conquest and of the acceptance of the same renunciation, together with the deposition of the same King Richard, here follow: Be it remembered that at about nine o’clock on Monday the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, in the twenty-third year of the reign of King Richard II,1 the lords spiritual and temporal and other great persons – namely Richard le Scrope, archbishop of York; John, bishop of Hereford; Henry, earl of Northumberland; Ralph, earl of Westmorland; Hugh, Lord Burnell; Thomas, Lord Berkeley;2 the prior of Canterbury; the abbot of Westminster; Sir William Thirning and John Markham, justices; Thomas Stowe and John Burbach, doctors of law; Thomas Erpingham and Thomas Gray, knights; and William Ferriby and Denis Lopham, notaries public, who had initially been deputed, with the consent and counsel of the lords spiritual and temporal – the justices, and others learned in civil and canon law and in the laws of the kingdom, [who were] gathered together in the usual meetingplace of the council at Westminster to undertake the following act, came into the presence of the said King Richard in the Tower of London.

And there, in the same king’s presence, it was recited by the earl of Northumberland, acting on behalf of and with the permission of all the aforesaid, how the same king at an earlier time, at Conway in North Wales, being then at liberty, had promised lord Thomas,3 archbishop of Canterbury, and the aforesaid earl of Northumberland that he was willing to yield up and renounce his crowns of England and France and his royal majesty on account of his own inability and insufficiency which he himself admitted there, which was to be done in the best manner and form that could be devised according to the counsel of learned men. In reply to this, and in the presence of the aforesaid lords and others, the king replied easily that he was willing to carry out what he had formerly promised in this regard; he wished, however, to speak with his kinsmen Henry, duke of Lancaster, and the aforesaid archbishop before thus fulfilling his promise. He also asked to be given a copy of the Cession made by him, that he might study it for a while; a copy was therefore given to him, and the said lords and others returned to their lodgings. Later on that same day, after dinner, after the king had grown impatient for the arrival of the duke of Lancaster, who delayed a long time, at length the duke of Lancaster, the lords and other persons named above, and the archbishop of Canterbury came into the king’s presence in the Tower, where Lords Roos, Willoughby, and Bergavenny were also present.4 And after the king had spoken apart for a while with the said duke and archbishop of Canterbury, with whom, it seemed to those present, he conversed with a cheerful expression, he at length called forward all who were there and announced to them that he was ready to perform the Cession and Renunciation which he had promised.

And although he was informed that, in order to save him the trouble of reading such a lengthy document, he could allow his Cession and Renunciation, which was written down on a parchment schedule to be read out for him by others, nevertheless he himself, willingly and, so it seemed, with a cheerful expression, took the schedule in his hands and announced that he wished to read it himself, and, quite distinctly, he read it out. Thus did he absolve his liegemen, and renounce, and yield up, and this he swore, and indeed he added further remarks and enlargements during the reading, and he signed it at the foot with his own hand as can be clearly seen on the aforesaid schedule, the tenor of which follows in these words: “In the name of God, amen. I, Richard, by the grace of God king of England and France and lord of Ireland, absolve all my archbishops, bishops, and other prelates of the church in the said kingdoms and dominions whatsoever, both secular and regular, of whatever dignity, degree, estate, or condition they be, and all my dukes, marquises, earls, barons, knights, vassals, vavasours, and all my other liegemen whatsoever, whether ecclesiastical or secular, by whatever name they might be described, from their Oath of Fealty and Homage and any other oaths to me which they have taken, together with all bonds of allegiance, regality, and lordship, or of any other kind, by which they are or have been bound to me . . .

And by these words I fully, willingly, directly, and totally renounce my right to the rule, governance, and administration of these kingdoms and dominions, and all and every type of power and jurisdiction in them, together with the name, honour, regality, and majesty of kingship . . . Saving the rights of my successors as kings of England in these kingdoms and dominions in all the foregoing for all time . . . I confess, acknowledge, recognize, and from my own certain knowledge truly admit that I have been and am entirely inadequate and unequal to the task of ruling and governing the aforesaid kingdoms and dominions and all that pertains to them, and that, on account of my notorious insufficiencies, I deserve to be deposed from them. And I swear upon these Holy Gospels, physically held here by me in person, that I shall never contravene the aforesaid Renunciation, Resignation, Demission, and Cession, nor in any way, by word or deed, on my own behalf or, so far as I am able, through any other person, either openly or secretly challenge them, or allow them to be challenged, but I shall regard the same Renunciation, Resignation, Demission, and Cession as established and accepted by me in perpetuity and shall firmly hold and observe them in each and every part, as God and these Holy Gospels shall judge me. Written by me, the aforesaid King Richard, with my own hand.”

And immediately the same king added to this Renunciation and Cession in his own words that, were it in his power, he should like the duke of Lancaster to succeed him to the throne. Yet, since his power to decide such things, as he himself said, was now minimal, he asked the aforesaid archbishop of York and bishop of Hereford, whom he also appointed as his spokesmen to convey and announce his Cession and Renunciation to the estates of the realm, that they should declare his will and intention in this matter too to the people. And, as a sign of his will and intention, he publicly removed from his finger his golden signet ring and placed it on the aforesaid duke’s finger, declaring that he wished this deed of his to be made known to all the estates of the realm. When this had been done, all who were there bade him farewell and left the Tower to return to their lodgings. On the following day, Tuesday, the feast of St. Jerome, in the great hall at Westminster, which had been suitably prepared for the holding of a parliament, in the presence of the aforesaid archbishops of Canterbury and York, the duke of Lancaster, and the other dukes and lords both spiritual and temporal whose names are written above, as well as a great assembly of the people of the realm gathered there for the holding of parliament, with the duke of Lancaster occupying his proper and accustomed place, and the royal throne solemnly bedecked with cloth of gold standing vacant and without any president, the aforesaid archbishop of York and bishop of Hereford, in accordance with the king’s injunction, publicly announced that the Cession and Renunciation had indeed been made by the king and that he had signed it with his own hand and had handed over his own signet, and they caused the Cession and Renunciation to be read out there, first in Latin and then in English. Whereupon the estates and people there present were immediately asked by the archbishop of Canterbury who, on account of the dignity and prerogative of his metropolitan church of Canterbury, has the privilege of speaking before all the other prelates and magnates of the realm in such matters, if they wished, for their own welfare and for the good of the realm, to accept that same Renunciation and Cession. To which the same estates and people replied that, considering the reasons given by the king himself in that Renunciation and Cession, it seemed most expedient to them, and unanimously and without dissent they accepted the Renunciation and Cession, each one singly and then jointly together with the people. Following this acceptance, it was publicly declared there that, as well as accepting this Cession and Renunciation, it would be of great benefit and advantage to the realm if, in order to remove any scruple or malevolent suspicion, the many wrongs and shortcomings so frequently committed by the said king in his government of the kingdom, which, as he himself confessed in his Cession, had rendered him worthy of deposition, were to be set down in writing in the form of articles publicly read out and announced to the people. The greater part of these articles was thus publicly read out, of which the full tenor is as follows . . . [There follows a copy of Richard’s coronation oath.] Here follow the charges against the king, for which he was deposed:

1. Firstly, the king is charged for his evil government, namely, that he gave the goods and possessions of the crown to unworthy persons and otherwise indiscreetly dissipated them, as a result of which he had to impose needlessly grievous and intolerable burdens upon the people, and committed innumerable other crimes. By his assent and command, certain prelates and other temporal lords were chosen and assigned by the whole parliament to labour faithfully at their own costs for the just government of the kingdom;5 the king, however, made an agreement with his supporters, proposing to impeach of high treason the said lords spiritual and temporal thus employed about the government of the kingdom and coerced the justices of the realm with threats of life and limb to confirm his wicked plans, intending to destroy the said lords.

2. Item: the king, when he was formerly at Shrewsbury, caused to come before him and others that supported him, in a chamber, various persons, including the majority of the justices, where, through fear and threats, he induced, compelled, and forced them each to answer certain questions on his behalf concerning the laws of the kingdom against their will and otherwise than they would have answered had they not been under compulsion but at liberty;6 by authority of which questions the king planned to proceed to the destruction of the duke of Gloucester and the earls of Arundel and Warwick and other lords against whom he had conceived a great hatred because they wished him to be under good rule.7 By divine providence and through the resistance and power of the said lords, the king was prevented from carrying out his plans.

3. Item: when the lords temporal, in order to defend themselves, resisted the king’s evil designs, the king set a day for parliament to see justice done to them, whereupon they, putting their hope and faith in the meeting of parliament, retired peaceably to their houses, but the king then secretly sent the duke of Ireland8 with his letters and his standard into Cheshire in order to raise to arms there a great number of men, and he incited them to rise up against the said lords and the magnates of the kingdom and the servants of the republic,9 thus challenging the peace which he had publicly sworn to keep, as a result of which deaths, imprisonments, quarrels, and numerous other evils occurred throughout the kingdom, by which acts he committed perjury.

4. Item: although the king pardoned the duke of Gloucester and the earls of Arundel and Warwick and all their supporters in full parliament and with its assent, and for many years behaved towards them in peaceful and benevolent fashion, yet he continued to bear hatred in his heart towards them so that when an opportunity came, he ordered the seizure of the duke of Gloucester – his own uncle, the son of the celebrated Edward, former king of England, and constable of England – who had come humbly forward to meet his lord king in solemn procession, and the said earls of Arundel and Warwick;10 the said duke he sent abroad to the town of Calais to be imprisoned by the earl of Nottingham, one of those who had appealed him, and there he caused him, without response or any legal process, to be secretly suffocated, strangled, and barbarously and cruelly murdered.11 The earl of Arundel, although he pleaded both a charter of general pardon and a charter of pardon which had been granted to him, and requested that justice be done to him, he wickedly ordered to be decapitated, having surrounded the parliament with a great number of armed men and archers whom he had gathered there for the purpose of overawing the people;12 the earl of Warwick and Lord Cobham he committed to perpetual imprisonment and confiscated, from them and their heirs, their lands and tenements, both those held in fee simple and those held in tail, expressly contrary to justice and to the laws of his realm, and to his oath, granting them to their appellants.13

5. Item: at the time when the king in his parliament caused the duke of Gloucester and the earls of Arundel and Warwick to be adjudged, in order that he would be free to pursue his cruel designs and wicked will against them and others, he gathered together a great number of malefactors from the county of Chester, some of whom travelled through the realm with him, both within the royal household and separately from it, cruelly killing some of the king’s subjects, beating and wounding others, plundering the goods of the people, refusing to pay for their provisions, and raping and ravishing both married and unmarried women. And although serious complaints were made to the king about the excesses committed by them, yet he made no attempt to stop them but rather supported these men in their crimes, trusting in them and their protection against all others of his kingdom so that his faithful subjects had great reason to grieve and to be indignant.

6. Item: although the king caused a proclamation to be made throughout the kingdom that he had had his uncle the duke of Gloucester and the earls of Arundel and Warwick seized and arrested not for any conspiracies or insurrections committed by them within the kingdom of England but for numerous extortions, oppressions, and other deeds done by them at a later time contrary to his regality and to his royal majesty – for, as he said, it was not his intention that any member of the duke’s or the earls’ following, or any person that had ridden with them at the time of those conspiracies and insurrections should be harassed or molested on account of that – nevertheless, he later impeached the said lords in parliament not for any such extortions or oppressions but for the aforesaid conspiracies and insurrections, for which they were adjudged to death, and he compelled with threats of death many of their followers and many of those who had ridden with them at that time to make fine and redemption as if they were traitors, which was to the great destruction of many of his people. Thus did he craftily, maliciously, and fraudulently deceive the said lords, their followers, and the people of the realm.

7. Item: although many of these people, while making fine and redemption in this manner, had obtained from the king letters patent pardoning them fully, yet they received no benefit from these letters of pardon until they paid new fines and redemptions in order to save their lives, by which they were gravely impoverished, which derogated greatly from the name and honour of kingship.

8. Item: in the last parliament held at Shrewsbury,14 the king, desiring to oppress his people, subtly procured and caused to be granted that the power of parliament should, with the assent of all the estates of the realm, be delegated to certain persons who, once the parliament had been dissolved, were to terminate certain petitions which were pending but had not been decided in parliament; by authority of this concession, however, they proceeded by the king’s will to deal with other general business relating to that parliament, which was derogatory to the state of parliament, to the prejudice of the whole realm, and a pernicious example. And in order that these actions might seem to have proper authority, the king of his own volition ordered the Rolls of Parliament to be erased and altered, contrary to the intention of the aforesaid grant.

9. [The king decreed that no one was to intercede or plead for a pardon for the exiled Henry, thus violating his oath.]

10. [The king sought papal confirmation of parliamentary statutes, which would therefore include threats against those who would contravene them, which was contrary to the crown and the good of the realm.]

11. [Despite the king’s approval of a duel between Henry and Thomas Mowbray, earl of Nottingham, Richard instead banished Henry (on 16 September, 1398).] 12. [The king reneged on allowing Henry income while in exile.]

13. [The king selected sheriffs instead of officers, justices, and others appointing them.]

14. [The king borrowed money from lords and others, and failed to pay it back by the agreed time.]

15. Item: whereas the king of England used to live honestly upon the revenues of the kingdom and the patrimony belonging to the crown without oppressing his people except at times when the realm was burdened with the expense of war, this king, despite the fact that throughout almost the whole of his time there were truces in operation between the kingdom of England and its enemies, not only gave away the greater part of his said patrimony to unworthy persons but, because of this, was obliged to impose grants upon his realm almost every year, which greatly oppressed his people and impoverished his nation, nor did he use these grants for the benefit or welfare of the English kingdom, but he dissipated it prodigiously upon the ostentation, pomp, and vainglory of his own person. He also owed great sums of money in the realm for victuals for his household and for other purchases despite the fact that his wealth and riches were greater than can be remembered for any of his progenitors.

16. Item: the king, not wishing to uphold or dispense the rightful laws and customs of the realm but preferring to act according to his own arbitrary will and to do whatever he wished, at times when his justices or others of his council expounded to him upon the laws of the realm and asked him to do justice according to those laws, frequently replied and declared expressly, with an austere and determined expression, that his laws were in his mouth, or, at other times, that they were in his breast, and that he alone could change or make the laws of his kingdom. And thus, led astray by his own opinions, he frequently failed to do justice to his liegemen but forced many, through fear and threats, to desist from the pursuit of common justice.

17. [The king arranged for a petition to grant him liberty to go against parliamentary statutes while they were still in effect, thus going against his coronation oath.]

18. [The king interceded to allow sheriffs to remain in office longer than the legal term of one year.]

19. [The king interfered in the appointment of knights of the shires and then used bribes and threats to get them to agree to items such as granting him the duties from will (at the parliament in Shrewsbury, 1398).]

20. [The king commanded sheriffs to obey all his mandates and to arrest anyone who said anything against the king.]

21. [The king forced people in seventeen counties to submit to him as traitors in order to extort their goods.]

22. [The king illegally ordered certain churchmen to provide him with supplies and money to fund his expedition to Ireland (in 1399).]

23. Item: in many great councils of the kingdom, when the lords of the realm, justices, and others were charged faithfully to counsel the king on matters concerning his welfare and that of his kingdom, the aforesaid lords, justices, and others, when offering their advice according to their discretion, were often so sharply and violently rebuked and reproved by the king that they dared not speak the truth in giving their advice on such matters.

24. [Richard took royal treasure with him when he went to Ireland, risking the impoverishment of the realm, and he ordered that “records of his estate and government of the kingdom” be erased.]

25. Item: the king was so variable and dissimulating in both word and letter, and so inconstant in his behaviour, especially in his dealings with the pope, and with kings, and with lords and others both within and beyond his own kingdom, that virtually no living person who came to know him could or wished to trust him. Indeed, so faithless and deceitful was he reputed to be, that he was a scandal not just to his own person and to the whole realm, but above all to foreigners throughout the world who heard about him.

26. Item: although the lands, tenements, goods, and chattels of each free man should not, according to the laws in force since ancient times, be seized except as a consequence of forfeiture, nevertheless the king, seeking to undermine those laws, frequently declared in the presence of many lords and others of the community of the realm that the lives of each of his subjects, together with their lands, tenements, goods, and chattels, were his and subject to his will, regardless of any forfeiture, which is entirely contrary to the laws and customs of the kingdom.

27. Item: although a statute was ordained, which has hitherto been maintained, “that no free man should be arrested, etc., or in any way destroyed, nor should the king proceed or order any process against him unless it be by lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land,”15 yet by the will, command, and ordinance of the king, many of his liegemen, being maliciously accused of having allegedly said things either openly or privately to the disgrace, scandal, or dishonour of the king’s person, were seized, imprisoned, and brought before the constable and marshal of England in the Court of Chivalry, in which court the said liegemen were not permitted to enter any response except that they were not guilty, nor to defend themselves otherwise than by their bodies, despite the fact that those who accused and appealed them were young, strong, and healthy, whereas the accused were aged, impotent, lame or infirm. From this the destruction not only of various lords and magnates of the realm but of each and every person belonging to the community of the realm could have resulted. Thus, when the king willfully contravened this statute of the realm, he undoubtedly thereby committed perjury.

28. [The king forced his subjects to swear oaths of allegiance to him.]

29. [The king impeded ecclesiastical cases against individuals, thereby infringing on the liberties of the church.] 30. Item: the king in parliament, with armed men standing around in a threatening manner, adjudged Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England and his spiritual father, who was through the king’s cunning absent at the time, to perpetual exile16 without any reasonable or legitimate cause, without lawful process, and contrary to the laws of the kingdom which he himself had sworn to uphold. 31. Item: perusal of the king’s testament, written under his great and privy seals as well as his signet, revealed among other things the following clause: “Item, we wish that once the debts of our household, chamber, and wardrobe have been paid, for which we leave twenty thousand pounds, and when fuller provision has been made by our executors for the lepers and chaplains whom we appointed to be maintained at Westminster and Bermondsey, for which purpose we leave five or six thousand marks to be spent by the said executors, the remainder of our gold should pass to our successor on condition that he approves, ratifies, confirms, upholds, and strictly observes each and every one of the statutes, ordinances, establishments, and judgements made and given in our parliament held on the seventeenth day of September in the twenty-first year of our reign at Westminster17 or in the same parliament when it was continued at Shrewsbury, and all the ordinances, judgements, and establishments made or given on the sixteenth of September in our twenty-second year at Coventry or afterwards on the eighteenth day of March at Westminster by authority of the same parliament, together with any ordinances or judgements which might in future be promulgated under the authority of the same parliament. If, on the other hand, our successor will not perform the above or refuses to do so, which we cannot believe will happen, then we wish that Thomas, duke of Surrey; Edward, duke of Aumale; John, duke of Exeter; and William le Scrope, earl of Wiltshire,18 once they have paid the debts of our household, chamber, and wardrobe, and set aside five or six thousand marks, as mentioned above, should have and keep the remainder for the defence and maintenance of the aforesaid statutes, ordinances, establishments, and judgements to the utmost of their ability, even unto death if need be, for each and every one of which injunctions we burden their consciences as they would wish to answer at the day of judgement.” Which article clearly demonstrates that the king tried unswervingly to uphold and maintain those wrongful and iniquitous statutes and ordinances, which are repugnant to all law and reason, not only in his life but even in death, regardless of the danger to his soul and to his kingdom, and to the ultimate destruction of his liegemen.

32. [Even though the king had earlier forgiven Gloucester for his role in the Great and Continual Council, he later had him murdered.]

33. [Richard dissuaded archbishop Arundel from answering in parliament in 1397 charges brought against him and then banished him, falsely promising to end his exile soon.] Following this all the estates assembled there were asked both individually and jointly to give their opinion on the aforesaid, and it seemed to them, bearing in mind also the king’s own confession of inadequacy and the other things mentioned in his Renunciation and Cession, that the wrongs and defects specified were fully sufficient and notorious to justify the king’s deposition; all the aforesaid estates unanimously agreed, therefore, that there was abundant cause, for the security and peace of the people, and the welfare of the realm, to depose the king . . . [The estates then appointed proctors to carry out the “sentence of deposition,” which they wrote, read out, and took to the king.] Immediately after this, since it was clear from the foregoing and what followed from them that the realm of England with its appurtenances was vacant, the said Henry, duke of Lancaster, rose from his place and, standing erect so that he could be seen by the people, humbly made the sign of the cross on his forehead and on his breast and, after first invoking the name of Christ, claimed this realm of England, now vacant as aforesaid, together with the crown and all its members and appurtenances, in his mother tongue, in the following words: “In the name of Fadir, Son, and Holy Gost, I, Henry of Lancaster, chalenge this rewme of Yngland and the corone with all the membres and the appurtenances als I that am disendit be right lyne of the blode comyng fro the gude lorde Kyng Henry therde and thorghe that ryght that God of his grace hath sent me, with helpe of my kyn and of my frendes to recover it, the whiche rewme was in poynt to be undone for defaut of governance and undoyng of the gode lawes.” Following this challenge and claim, the lords spiritual and temporal and all the estates there present were individually and jointly asked what they thought of this challenge and claim, to which the same estates, together with all the people, unanimously and without any difficulty or delay agreed that the aforesaid duke should reign over them. Whereupon the king promptly showed to the estates of the realm the signet of King Richard which, as mentioned earlier, had been willingly handed over to him as a token, and the archbishop, taking the aforesaid King Henry by the right hand, led him to the royal throne. After the king had knelt for a short while to pray before the throne, the aforesaid archbishop of Canterbury, assisted by the archbishop of York, seated the king upon the throne to tremendous and joyful applause from the people. Presently, the said archbishop of Canterbury, having with difficulty on account of the joy of all present, imposed silence upon them, preached a short sermon . . . [The theme of Arundel’s sermon was “A man shall reign over the people.”19 The archbishop preached on the instability and danger caused by an immature ruler, contrasting that former peril with the present, wherein a mature and wise man will reign.] When this sermon was over, the lord King Henry, in order to set at peace the minds of his subjects, then and there publicly spoke these words: “Sires, I thank God and yowe, spirituel and temporel, and all the astates of the lond, and do yowe to wyte it es noght my will that no man thynk yt be waye of conquest I wold disherit any man of his heritage, franches, or other ryghtes that hym aght to have, no put hym out of that that he has and has had by the gude lawes and custumes of the rewme except thos persons that has ben agan the gude purpose and the commune profyt of the rewme.” [Henry set dates for the next parliament, Monday, 6 October, and his coronation, Monday, 13 October, before all present retired to celebrate. On the following Wednesday, Lord William Thirning and his fellow proctors visited Richard in the Tower, read out the sentence of deposition, and confirmed that the people’s homage to him had ended and would exist no more. The record states simply that Richard:] answerd and seyd that he loked not ther after, but he said that after all this he hoped that is cosyn wolde be goode lord to hym.Firstly, on Sunday the eve of Michaelmas, after dinner,20 the following people were, with the assent of all the great council of England, sent to King Richard, who was then in the Tower of London: the archbishop of York and the bishop of Hereford for bishops; the earls of Northumberland and Westmorland for earls; Lord Despenser, the former earl of Gloucester,21 and Lord Bergavenny for barons; Sir Thomas Gray and Sir Thomas Erpingham for knights; Master Thomas Stow and Master John Burbach, doctors; and Master Denis Lopham and Master John Ferriby, notaries. This was in order to ascertain from the king on behalf of the aforesaid council whether he was willing to resign all the right that he had to the crown of England with its appurtenances, as he had previously promised to them that he would. The king said in reply that he would prefer first of all to see in writing the form of the resignation by which he was supposed to resign. Whereupon they handed him a bill in which it was explained how he had to resign all the right that he had to the crown of England and its appurtenances, that is to say, in the kingdoms of England, France, Ireland, and Scotland; the duchies of Guyenne and Normandy; the county of Ponthieu and the town of Calais; and in all the other castles, fortresses, and towns which he either held at present or claimed by right, both on this side of the sea and beyond it, and in every part of them, for himself and his heirs in perpetuity. To which he replied by saying that he wished to consider this until the following morning. On the feast of Michaelmas, therefore, at nine o’clock in the morning, the same lords came to the Tower and with them the prior of Christchurch Canterbury, and they asked him if he had considered sufficiently what his reply to the aforesaid bill would be. He replied shortly that he would not do it under any circumstances, and he was greatly incensed and declared that he would like to have it explained to him how it was that he could resign the crown and to whom. Later, however, after various additional arguments had been put forward and explained to him there by the aforesaid lords, he said, “Bring my dear cousin Lancaster here, for I am willing, upon certain conditions which I shall explain to him, to make my resignation to him.” Whereupon, after dinner on that same day, the duke of Lancaster, the earls of Northumberland and Westmorland, and a large number of other barons, knights, and esquires rode through Cheap to the Tower, where the archbishops of Canterbury and York, the bishop of Hereford, the abbot of Westminster, the prior of Christchurch Canterbury, and various other spiritual clerks were at that time waiting. And there the king was asked if he was willing to resign all the right that he had to the crown of England and its appurtenances as set out in the bill of resignation handed to him.

To which the king replied that he would do it willingly in the interests of his dear cousin the duke of Lancaster upon certain conditions which he would state. He was told by them, however, that there was no way in which this could be done; he must do it simply, without any conditions. Whereupon the king picked up the aforesaid bill himself and read it out with good cheer, loudly and clearly, thus resigning to the duke of Lancaster all the right that he had to the crown of England and its appurtenances, together with all other lands apart from the lands and tenements which he had bought from Roger Walden and from Sir William Scrope, the former treasurer of England, with which to endow a yearly anniversary for his soul at Westminster abbey, the latter having been allowed to him in presence of all the aforesaid lords. And upon this the names of certain witnesses were entered as of record. He debased the nobles. It was in this King Richard’s nature to debase the noble and to exalt the ignoble – as he did with . . . Sir William,22 for example, and with other such low-born men whom he elevated to great positions, or the numerous simpletons whom he raised to bishoprics and who were later brought to ruin because of such unwarranted promotion. Thus might it truly be said that this Richard was like Arthgallus, former king of the Britons, for this Arthgallus also debased the noble and exalted the ignoble, seizing the goods of the wealthy and amassing indescribable treasures. The king deposed. As a result of this, the heroes of the realm, unable to bear such evils any longer, rose up against him, deposed him, and set up his brother as king in his place.23 Precisely the same things happened with this Richard, concerning whose birth many unsavoury things were commonly said, namely that he was not born of a father of the royal line but of a mother24 given to slippery ways – to say nothing of many other things I have heard. Reasons for deposing the king. Following this, the question of deposing King Richard and replacing him as king with Henry, duke of Lancaster, and of how and for what reasons this might lawfully be done, was committed for debate to a number of doctors, bishops, and others, one of whom was the writer of this present work; and they decided that perjuries, sacrileges, sodomitical acts, dispossession of his subjects, the reduction of this people to servitude, lack of reason, and incapacity to rule, to all of which King Richard was notoriously prone, were sufficient reasons – according to the chapter “Ad Apostolice” taken from “Re Judicata” in the Sextus, and the other things noted there – for deposing him.25 Moreover, although he was prepared to abdicate, it was nevertheless decided that, as a further precaution, he should be deposed by authority of the clergy and people for the reasons already stated, for which purpose they were therefore summoned. On the feast of St. Matthew26 the second anniversary of the beheading of the earl of Arundel, the writer of this present work was conducted by Sir William Beauchamp to the aforesaid Tower where King Richard was imprisoned, for the specific purpose of ascertaining his mood and behaviour, and I was present there while he dined. And there and then, during dinner, the king began to discourse dolefully as follows: “My God, this is a strange and fickle land, which has exiled, slain, destroyed, and ruined so many kings, so many rulers, so many great men, and which never ceases to be riven and worn down by dissensions and strife and internecine hatreds.”

And he recounted the names and the histories of those who had suffered such fates, from the time when the realm was first inhabited. Seeing therefore the troubles of his soul, and seeing that none of those who had been deputed to wait upon him were in any way bound to him, or used to serving him, but were strangers who had been sent there simply to spy upon him, I departed much moved at heart, reflecting to myself on the glories of his former state and on the fickle fortune of this world.[Henry] had proposed to claim the kingdom by conquest, but Lord William Thirning, justice, said that this was quite impossible, for by doing so he would arouse the anger of the entire population against him. This was because if he claimed the kingdom in this way, it would appear to the people that he had the power to disinherit anybody at will and to change the laws, establishing new ones and revoking old ones, as a result of which no one would be secure in his possessions . . . [W]hen Lord William Thirning said to him that he had renounced all the honours and dignity pertaining to a king, he replied that he did not wish to renounce those special dignities of a spiritual nature which had been bestowed upon him, nor indeed his anointment; he was in fact unable to renounce them, nor could he cease to retain them.

And when William Thirning replied to this that he had himself admitted, in his own Renunciation and Cession, that he was not worthy, or adequate, or able enough to govern, he said that this was not true; it was simply that his government had not been acceptable to the people. But William replied by telling him that this had clearly been stated in the aforesaid Cession and Renunciation, and reminding him of the form in which this confession of his had been written down there. Hearing this, the king simply smiled and asked to be treated accordingly, and not to be deprived of the means with which to sustain himself honourably.

4 thoughts on “Usurpation

  1. Aw well, Im sure 3 hours of rich American Literature will make you feel better 😛 notttttt….Hysterical Literature – NSFW

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